The best mattresses in a box of 2020

Emilee Geist

The best mattresses in a box Finding the right mattress for you—whether it be firm and super-supportive or soft with lots of give—can be daunting, especially when shopping for mattresses online. How can you feel confident buying something you’ll use for a third of your day, without ever touching it yourself? […]

The best mattresses in a box
The best mattresses in a box

Finding the right mattress for you—whether it be firm and super-supportive or soft with lots of give—can be daunting, especially when shopping for mattresses online. How can you feel confident buying something you’ll use for a third of your day, without ever touching it yourself? Yet the popularity of these beds-in-a-box cannot be understated—in 2017, online mattress retailers broke the billion-dollar threshold.       

Here at Reviewed, we’ve tested the most popular mattresses in a box, relying on both scientific and experiential tests to help you decide which one offers the perfect blend of comfort and support for your needs. Some professional reviewers slice up mattresses and analyze the materials under a microscope. Others sleep on a couple for just a few nights and then write about their experiences. We land in the middle, getting what we think is a well-rounded look at each mattress to see how they measure up. To date, our favorite mattress overall is Nectar (available at Nectar for $699.00) for its reasonable price, comfort, and lightweight, cooling design.         

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1. The best mattress in a box: Nectar

Nectar is a well-rounded mattress that our tester liked so much she didn't want to give it up.
Nectar is a well-rounded mattress that our tester liked so much she didn’t want to give it up.

Nectar is the best mattress we’ve tested. It checks a lot of boxes for many shoppers, with its excellent balance of firmness to plushness and its middle-tier price.

The first thing our tester noticed upon lugging the box up the two flights of stairs to her apartment was how light it felt compared to other boxed mattresses. At 65 pounds, it’s only a few pounds lighter than most, but that can make all the difference for moving and opening a memory foam mattress. Nectar also offers white-glove delivery that starts at $149. Like most foam mattresses, it emits a weird “packaged” smell at first, despite the site claiming you shouldn’t notice any odors, but that dissipated after about 12 hours and was never an issue for our tester, her partner, or their cat.

The “wine glass” test, which evaluates motion transfer, proved to be one of our most important and insightful tests. When our tester’s partner thrashed around and kicked his legs on the bed, the wine glass hardly even wobbled, and never came close to tipping over, meaning you aren’t likely to get jostled awake if you share this bed with a restless sleeper, or feel bad about getting up to pee at 2 a.m, and then slinking back to bed. Additionally, though our tester tends to sleep hot, she had no issues with the Nectar mattress.

After sleeping on the mattress for 30 days, our tester didn’t want to give it up and took her time arranging to have it hauled away—and her partner, who formerly swore by the Purple mattress, admitted that this was the most comfortable mattress he’s slept on so far. But if you don’t get as attached to it as they did, Nectar offers a 365-day trial period, one of the longest windows of all the mattress-in-a-box retailers.

Mattress materials: Three layers of foam: From the top, a one-inch “fast-recovery” gel memory foam, then a three-inch memory foam layer with “medical-grade” cooling, and beneath, a high-density base foam layer for support.

Delivery and packaging: Front-door drop-off, two to three days after placing an order. A queen-size mattress arrives in a box measuring 44 inches by 16 inches by 16 inches and weighing about 65 pounds.

Trial period: 365 nights.

Return protocol: Nectar helps you coordinate donation or local disposal.

Get the Nectar Memory Foam mattress for $699 

2. The best luxury mattress in a box: Leesa

Our tester loved the Leesa Hybrid for its comfort and excellent balance of softness and support.
Our tester loved the Leesa Hybrid for its comfort and excellent balance of softness and support.

We think it’s worth investing as much as is feasible in your budget in your mattress—after all, you spend up to a third of your life on it. The Nectar offers top-notch support at a middle-of-the-road price but, based on our testing, it’s hard to beat the Leesa Hybrid, if you can afford to spend the cash.

The mattress’s top two layers are foam, which provide softness and give, and allow it to contour to the body. As a hybrid, the foam sits atop pocket springs, which are coils that are individually wrapped in quilted fabric, giving the bed a sturdy yet buoyant base. This provides adaptable support for all sleep positions, without leaving a stomach sleeper unsupported or a side sleeper’s shoulder or hip aching the next morning. The bed is a crowd-pleaser that’s amazing to sleep on in any position.

For consumers, the Leesa Hybrid’s construction and support aren’t visible. What our tester felt was the responsiveness of its inner workings when she plopped down on the mattress. On a superficial level, though, she noticed and appreciated the super-soft and aesthetically pleasing cover (a.k.a., its ticking). The cover doesn’t have a huge bearing on functionality, but the devil’s in the details, and that’s another place where the Leesa Hybrid Mattress shines.

The Leesa Hybrid mattress only had a couple of downsides. It retained heat in our lab testing, a consideration for people who sleep hot. That said, our tester considers herself a hot sleeper, yet she didn’t find herself switching sides of the bed in hopes of finding a cool spot (like flipping the pillow over to get the “cool” side).

In addition, the Leesa Hybrid had a noticeable odor when it was first opened that lasted several days. The mattress is CertiPUR-certified, so the smell, though annoying, isn’t caused by certain harmful flame retardants, and the bed meets indoor air-quality requirements for certain types of pollutants. In addition, moving the mattress once it’s expanded is a task due to its heftier-than-most, 115-pound weight.

Leesa’s 100-night guarantee, along with its responsive customer service, make this mattress a worry-free investment. If you don’t vibe with the Leesa as well as our tester did, you may send it back for a full refund—though we doubt you’ll want to part with it.

Mattress materials: Two layers of foam a top comfort layer designed with holes for breathability, and a regular memory foam layer that provides contouring. The foam layers sit above a pocket-spring base.

Delivery and packaging: Front-door drop-off. A queen size arrives in a box measuring 45 inches by 16 inches by 16 inches and weighing a total of 121 pounds.

Trial period: 100 nights.

Return protocol: Leesa will coordinate the pick-up and donation of unwanted mattresses to “charity partners that serve children.”

Get the Leesa Hybrid mattress for $1,699 

3. The best value mattress in a box: Tuft & Needle

If you're looking for a lower price mattress that still packs a punch, the Tuft & Needle Original is a good option.
If you’re looking for a lower price mattress that still packs a punch, the Tuft & Needle Original is a good option.

The Tuft & Needle Original is a fantastic mattress for anyone looking for firmer support in a bed, at a great price. It is among the least expensive we’ve tested but it stands out as a favorite for its ability to provide comfort, without compromising on firmness or feeling too hard.    

In both our lab-based and at-home tests, we found that the mattress mitigates movement well—even a tossing-and-turning partner didn’t rouse our tester. Tuft & Needle’s excellent, prompt, friendly customer service is a perk as well.

The mattress is encased in a cheap-feeling cover that’s designed to be breathable. It bunches up a bit beneath tight-fitting sheets, but not distractingly so—and as it’s the best practice to use a mattress protector anyway, we don’t see this as a big concern.

At this intersection of price and quality, it’s hard to find a better pick.

Mattress materials: Two layers of foam: on top, a soft three-inch layer infused with cooling gel and graphite, and beneath, a firm seven-inch layer for support.

Delivery and packaging: Front-door drop-off. A queen-size arrives in a box measuring 44 inches by 16 inches by 16 inches box and weighing about 72 pounds.

Trial period: 100 nights.

Return protocol: Tuft & Needle coordinates pickup with a local charity or nonprofit, free of charge.

Get the Tuft & Needle Original mattress for $595 

Other mattresses we tested

4. Helix

Despite difficulty with delivery, the Helix Midnight proved comfortable.
Despite difficulty with delivery, the Helix Midnight proved comfortable.

Before ordering a Helix mattress, potential buyers take a brief survey on their website that uses height, weight, usual sleeping position, and preferred mattress firmness to determine their ideal mattress. Our tester sleeps on her side and prefers a medium-to-firm mattress, as such, her results yielded the Helix Midnight, a 12-inch mattress with medium support and a hybrid foam-spring composition. This also happens to be the brand’s best-selling mattress.

Overall, our tester slept really well on the Helix Midnight. It has a nice medium-firm feel with some give when she lay down on it, but a distinctive sensation of deeper support at its core. The tester has always been a side sleeper, and on her old spring-filled mattress, she would sometimes wake up with a sore, crooked-feeling back and aches in her hips where the springs had dug into them. On the Midnight, however, it felt as though she was aligned sleeping on her side, and when she woke up, the familiar, piercing hip pain her old mattress caused was no more. She also felt comfortable in other positions on the mattress.

In addition, our tester tends to sleep hot (and lacks air conditioning), so she was pleased that the mattress didn’t retain too much body heat, even when she sweat at night. All in all, it’s a great mattress at a decent price, particularly for side sleepers.

That said, our tester had some difficulties with its delivery. The box that was dropped off outside her door had no handles, and it was heavy at about 70 pounds, so she had to enlist two of her roommates to help her hoist it up the stairs to her bedroom. There was also a strong chemical smell on the mattress that stuck around after she unwrapped it, but that dissipated a little bit each day and went away fully in about a week.

Mattress materials: The Helix Midnight mattress is constructed from memory foam, polyfoam, wrapped coils, and hard foam called “Duradense” foam at the base.

Delivery and packaging: Front-door drop-off. The queen arrived in a rectangular cardboard box measuring 48 inches by 16 inches by 16 inches. It weighs about 70 pounds.

Trial period: 100 nights.

Return protocol: Helix’s removal partners come to your house to take away an unwanted mattress to donate or recycle it.

Get the Helix Midnight mattress for $999

5. Purple

Purple has a unique gel material that might not be for everyone, but sets it apart.
Purple has a unique gel material that might not be for everyone, but sets it apart.

Purple sets itself apart with its unique gel-like material unlike the typical memory foam, coil, or hybrid mattresses that pad the rest of the market. The gel material results in an undeniably comfortable surface that hugs the body without feeling like quicksand. It also absorbs movement extremely well, as evidenced by our tester’s wine-glass test: When her partner rolled and flopped around on his side of the bed, the filled wine glass balanced on her side hardly registered the motion.

The extreme squish and stretch of the top polymer layer makes it seem like the mattress wouldn’t offer much support, but it’s quite the opposite. It cradles the body regardless of preferred sleep position. This was the first mattress our tester tested, and she’d been dealing with the quintessential “I’m not 25 anymore and work at a desk all day” lower back pain. It wasn’t long after she started sleeping on the Purple that her pain diminished, and that’s a big reason why she continued using a Purple mattress, buying herself one after the test period.

Purple also has no competition when it comes to delivery. The others, excluding the Saatva, arrive in massive boxes that are awkward and near-impossible to haul around, especially up stairs. Purple’s mattresses arrive wrapped in plastic tubing that has cloth straps stitched right in. There’s so much less waste, and the included cutting tool slices right through the bag, so there’s no struggle to tug a huge foam cylinder out of a big clumsy box. Plus, of all the vendors we tested, Purple is the only one that sells a split king, which works with a two-sided adjustable frame.

Mattress materials: Three layers: On top is a two-inch “hyper-elastic polymer” in a grid design that feels similar to silicone. In the middle is a 3.5-inch layer of mid-density “comfort” foam, and on the bottom is a four-inch layer of high-density “support” foam.

Delivery and packaging: Front-door drop-off. The queen arrives in a 60-inch long, 16-inch diameter plastic tube with fabric handles and weighs about 110 pounds.

Trial period: 100 nights.

Return protocol: Purple will send you a return label and then a customer service rep will help you through the process.

Get the Purple mattress for $1,149

6. Saatva

The Saatva Luxury Firm mattress was comfortable, but so large it was inconvenient.
The Saatva Luxury Firm mattress was comfortable, but so large it was inconvenient.

When our tester first lay down on the Saatva mattress in “Luxury Firm,” she thought she’d been transported to a suite at a high-end resort. It didn’t hurt that she did nothing more than hold open doors to let the delivery guys in and lead them to her waiting bed frame. She was surprised that it didn’t perform better on our tests. The reason? It’s inconveniently large and one of the worst mattresses at absorbing movement.

The “Premier Luxury” model we tested measured 14.5 inches thick, nearly double the thickness of most mattresses (it also comes in a more standard “Custom Slim” 11.5-inch thickness). The added bulk made it nearly impossible for our tester’s regular sheets to stay put. The tester is a pretty tall lady at 5-foot-10, but due to the mattress’ thickness, she found herself almost hopping into bed every night. The added bed height felt luxurious in that “where’s my royal stepping stool, you peasant?” kind of way, but it may not be ideal for people who are shorter, unless they have a lower mattress frame. The height could also prove challenging for people with chronic pain, injuries, or restricted movement.

More annoyingly, the Saatva mattress was terrible at absorbing movement. When we conducted the wine glass test, this was one of the two mattresses that threatened to tip the glass and send the water flying.

That said, the thinner, 11.5-inch option (which Saatva claims “feels identical”) could work for people who sleep alone or so deeply that a partner or pet’s midnight fidgets won’t stir them.

Mattress materials: Recycled steel rod coils, eco-friendly pillow-top foam, natural flame retardant barrier, and organic cotton cover.

Delivery and packaging: White-glove delivery service. The mattress is brought inside and placed on the bed frame for you. No heavy-lifting on your part.

Trial period: 120 nights.

Return protocol: Saatva offers white-glove removal if you are not satisfied with your mattress, but you will be charged $99 for the service. There’s no apparent option to handle the donation yourself for a full refund like some other companies offer.

Get the 14.5-inch Saatva Premier Luxury mattress for $1,299

7. Zinus

The Zinus is super affordable, but its soft surface isn't for everyone.
The Zinus is super affordable, but its soft surface isn’t for everyone.

The Zinus Green Tea mattress, which we tested in the 12-inch thickness, is a soft mattress with minimal support but a super-affordable price. It’s different from some other mattresses on this list, because it’s available on Amazon and, at under $350 for a 12-inch thick Queen-size mattress, it’s a lot cheaper than most mattresses out there. It is also widely beloved, with nearly 40,000 reviews and an overall 4.2-star rating. Zinus’ mattress foam, called BioFoam, is made with green tea extract, castor seed oil, and charcoal. Zinus says these natural components are used to prevent the typical chemical-y smelling scent of a mattress in a box, but when our tester unboxed it, it had the same pungent smell we’ve come to expect. (It dissipated in about 24 hours, though.)

When our tester laid down on the Zinus, the first thing she noticed could be a plus or a minus, depending on personal preferences: It’s extremely soft. The mattress is composed of different kinds of foam, so it molds to pressure and weight, creating what felt to our tester like a divot underneath the body. In some ways, this is good—it has a nesting effect, so it’s cozy—but she tends to sleep hot, and found that the Zinus retained body heat more than other mattresses she’s tested (namely, the Helix). It also made it difficult to get out of bed in the morning because her 130-pound body had sunk so deep into the mattress. Still, she slept pretty well each night, despite not loving soft mattresses and occasionally feeling more overnight heat than she preferred.

And the Zinus has its fans (apart from all those Amazon shoppers), one of whom is another Reviewed staff member: Anna Lane, our parenting editor. She loves Zinus mattresses so much that she has one in every bedroom of her house. “I initially bought one for my son because I found that it was the most reasonably priced, not-super-toxic mattress,” she says. “I didn’t have high hopes for comfort because of the price point, but once we tried it out, both my husband and I agreed that it was super-comfortable. Then we bought two more: one for us and one for our daughter.”

Bottom line: It’s not for everyone. But buyers seeking a short queen size that measures 70 inches long, versus the regular 80 (a few people are), who like soft mattresses (some people do), and who prefer to save money (many people do), the Zinus is a solid option.

Mattress materials: Foam: Three inches of memory foam, two inches of “comfort” foam, seven inches of “high-density base support” foam.

Delivery and packaging: Front-door drop-off. The 12-inch thick queen size arrives in a rectangular cardboard box. It weighs about 60 pounds.

Trial period: 100 nights.

Return protocol: Zinus instructs purchasers to contact customer service for instructions on returning decompressed (i.e., open) mattresses. These may prove a hassle to return if purchased anywhere other than Zinus’s site, if Amazon reviewers’ experiences are accurate.

Get the 12-inch Zinus Green Tea mattress for $344

8. Casper

Casper's aesthetic was overshadowed by how unsupportive the mattress was.
Casper’s aesthetic was overshadowed by how unsupportive the mattress was.

Casper is perhaps the most ubiquitous mattress in a box, but for our tester, its beautiful aesthetic was overshadowed by how unsupportive she found it. The luxe design aims to target zones like the shoulders and hips, and the mattress is encased in a high-quality zippered cover that fits snug around the mattress. However, the mattress feels spongy and that lack of firmness (and therefore, increased resistance) makes it difficult to move around and get in and out of bed.

Our tester felt a lot of movement from her partner and pet moving around on the bed, which was confirmed by her wine-glass test. When she balanced a filled wine glass on one side and kicked around on the other, the wine glass nearly toppled over. Worse, the mattress’s edges buckled beneath average weight and pressure. Is it a bad mattress? No. Are there better options for the price? Yes.

Mattress materials: A 10-inch thick mattress with four layers of foam: a breathable open-cell foam on top, followed by a layer of high-density foam, then a layer of “zoned transition foam” (meant to support different areas of the body appropriately), and a durable support foam on the bottom.

Delivery: Front-door drop-off. The queen-sized Casper box measures 42 inches by 17 inches by 17 inches and weighs about 90 pounds.

Trial period: 100 nights.

Return protocol: Casper arranges a pickup through a local charity or recycling partner and refunds you in full for any associated costs.

Get the Casper Original mattress for $1,095

9. Layla

Layla is double-sided, with a soft and firm option, but in our testing it didn't hold up.
Layla is double-sided, with a soft and firm option, but in our testing it didn’t hold up.

Layla sets itself apart from the other mattresses we tested with a couple unusual features. Namely, it has two sleep surfaces, depending which side of the mattress is facing up: One that’s firm, while the other is soft. It’s a cool concept for buyers who aren’t sure of their preferences, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. First off, the soft side is so soft that our tester felt she sank in too far. And the ‘firm’ side really isn’t all that firm, considering it’s resting on a whole bunch of ultra-soft memory foam. It’s more like this mattress has a soft side and a too-soft side. Aside from never quite getting used to how soft the soft side was, our tester didn’t experience any ill effects to her sleep.

The memory foam on both sides is infused with copper, which claims to help keep you cooler and has antimicrobial properties. But our tester woke up dripping in sweat the first two nights, (though she noted she’d just had oral surgery, which could have influenced her reaction). After that, she seemed to settle in to the mattress and didn’t have any further issues with overheating, but she didn’t notice feeling cooler than usual, either.

Mattress materials: Four layers: A three-inch, copper-infused memory foam (soft side topper), two-inch “support foam with air flow”, 4.5-inch base support foam, and one-inch copper-infused memory foam (firm side topper).

Delivery and packaging: Front-door drop-off. The queen-size Layla box is 45 inches by 19 inches by 19 inches and weighs about 80 pounds.

Trial period: 120 nights.

Return protocol: Layla offers a few different options, including coordinating pickup by a local charity, and will give you a full refund.

Get the Layla Memory Foam mattress for $1,049

The product experts at Reviewed have all your shopping needs covered. Follow Reviewed on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for the latest deals, reviews, and more.

Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.

This article originally appeared on The best mattresses in a box of 2020

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